Local funeral directors, Janes McMullan & Son have, have voiced their concerns over an increase in grave opening fee’s.

The new fee’s have increased by almost 50% in the Causeway Coast & Glens Area and were agreed last October full council meeting as part of an ‘overall review of charges’ within Environmental services.

Speaking about the increase, James McMullan & Sons released the following:

“Local funeral directors are concerned by 45.7% increases in grave opening fees due from 1st January 2020 in cemeteries operated by Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council.

“Raising grave opening fees overnight by almost 50% will have a massive impact on the vast majority of bereaved families in Causeway Coast & Glens. They will have absolutely no choice but to pay these fees, and our concern is that Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council is taking advantage of a vulnerable group within the community, in order to help address the council’s budget deficit.

“Funeral directors have worked hard to keep their charges down in recent years – despite funerals becoming much more complex, personalised events – to help address public concerns about rising costs.

“However, the reality is that it’s huge rises in burial and cremation fees, like these, that continue to drive the price up.

“A survey earlier this year, by Royal London, showed that local councils in the UK have hiked burial fees by 6.1 percent over average, in the last year – well ahead of inflation. This is bad enough…but to hike them up by 45.7% overnight is indefensible and we urge the council to think about the consequences of this decision on local people. “

In response to the concerts, which DUP Cllr John McAuley called a ‘social media storm’ the councillor has said:

“As part of a financial review across all council departments, Cemetery charges were analysed and compared to other Councils across Northern Ireland.

“Based on this analysis a finance sub committee proposed that the charges for a plot & opening would be increased by £120 to £500 (+32%), whilst remaining one of the lowest with the NI average £584.

“Part of this proposal was the agreement that burials would remain available 7 days a week, including weekends & Bank Holidays at no extra cost, something which other councils charge a premium for with the weekend average being £685 and Bank holidays £694.

“The Council do not profit from this service and always endeavour to keep costs to a minimum for the public. Even with this increase the cost of cemeteries to council is still not fully covered.

“These proposals were agreed by the full council as part of a finance package of additional income and efficiency savings, which is still considerably short of what is required in order to put the council into an acceptable financial state where it can survive and provide the service people require and deserve.

“Unfortunately this will require tough and unpopular decisions but that’s what we have been elected to do and is what I will continue to do, whilst being honest with you the electorate.

“I am disappointed that the press release failed to include the fact that James McMullan & Sons, found the proposals acceptable when I personally discussed them with Andrew McMullan prior to them being agreed as he felt overall they weren’t too bad in comparison to other areas, this endorsement was crucial to me not raising any objections at the meeting.

“Since then, I have held further discussions with Andrew who raised concern at the split of the rise not being quite right between new plots and openings as he felt it would be preferable for new plots to increase more accordingly than the opening of a grave. It was agreed that I would look into this for him, with a view to getting it amended if possible.”

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